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She won't eat!

Forum: Attachment Parenting


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May 1st, 2009, 11:22 AM
Zoostergirl's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Pennsylvania
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Okay, I need some help with my 18 month old foster daughter. She has a failure to thrive diagnosis and weighs only 18 lb, 4 oz. And she won't eat! It is such a source of stress for me and I know it is not good for our relationship. I'm a bit of a control freak (trying to let it go, because I know it makes for bad parenting) and I sometimes find myself forcing food into her mouth, which of course she spits out. She flips out when put into her high chair. She basically just doesn't like eating.

Today she has had two slices of cheese, one cheerio, and one tiny piece of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And this covers breakfast, morning snack, and lunch. She did drink about 3/4 of a bottle of pediasure shortly after waking up.

So I guess I just would like to let it go. She knows what she needs more than I do right? She will eat when she needs to? What's the AP approach to this problem?

A big part of my stress is that she's a foster child. If she were mine, I wouldn't care so much about the doctor giving me trouble about her weight.

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May 1st, 2009, 12:00 PM
Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Michigan
Posts: 26,401
That sounds like a very typical toddler to me. Abby still has many days she will eat very little, a bite of this, or a bite of that, and other days she scarfs down food. I know it must be stressful since she is so small, I wish I had more advice!

What does she drink during the day? Would she consider taking some breastmilk or formula from a cup?
Andrea, mom to 3 beautiful girls - Abigail (8) Annabelle (6) and Alexis (3)

Expecting baby #4 in April - It's a BOY!

Two Little Monkies on Etsy
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May 1st, 2009, 12:21 PM
Super Mommy
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 904
Hi!! I'm so sorry the litttle girl is having trouble I am so so happy that you came here for advice!!!! BIG BIG POWER HUGS TO YOU for everything you are doing for this child. The fact that you see the problem and only want to do right by this child fills me with love and hope for you and her, she is truly lucky to have you.

I was raised in a home with my bio Mom who force fed her foster children, it is as harmful to your children as it is to the child to see you force feed. I still have HUGE issues with food because of the feedings and struggles I only witnessed. My Mother is not allowed to say one single word to my daughter about eating and food...seems extreme I know, but even she admitted that it is helping her build a nicer relationship with my daughter.

So thats the tactic I would advice...At mealtimes...give her the food and let her eat or not, offfer well spaced easy access snacks...hummus and tortilla chips, avacados mashed with a bit of sugar and lemon, apples and pretzel sticks with nut butter,whole milk yogurt,many crackers& breads now have higher protien, offer those with butter or jam.

Oh the high chair, my dd wouldn't use one, of course you do have other kids to consider and want some sembalence of order..do you have a strap to the chair booster seat they offer the freedom of space and independence she is probably craving.Sometimes you can get one from your agency if neccassary.

If you don't have dogs, the toddler ideal for eating is an ice cube tray of healthy snacky foods and a couple high calorie dips set on a low table and left for a bit.

You are absolutely right in knowing that just letting go is going to be the best for the child and you...18 pounds at 18 months, isn't that small...is it????? especially if she's from a tiny family.

Hang in there and stick around here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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May 1st, 2009, 12:37 PM
~*Kixs*~'s Avatar Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: May 2007
Location: North Texas
Posts: 12,914
I am all for listening to your child and trusting their little bodies to eat what they need. But failure to thrive kinda over rides that.

It is very typical for toddlers to battle with you over food...this is there source of power! This gives them control in a world where they still depend on other to do for them. But you said this is your foster daughter. Is it possible that she is using food as control over what has happened to her in her short little life??? Obviously she is in fostercare for a reason. Maybe talk with her case worker about play therapy to help her cope and express her feelings.

But as far as the immdeiate...if she cries when she is put in the highchair...don't put her in the highchair. Will she sit at the table like a big girl? Or possibly a childrens table and chair set? Or even make lunch fun and put down a beach towl in the living room and have a picnic!

Let her eat what she wants to eat. Balanced nutrition is important but lets face it your FDD just needs to get use to eating right now. Ask the pedi about putting her on a vitiman. Stock up on kid friendly snack...yogurt, dried fruit, string cheese, baby carrots and dip, pretzels and peanut butter. And make her her own little snack shelf in the fridge. Let her eat what she wants at random times during the day. And let her get the snacks herself!!! This gives her control.

My DD is almost 4 and has been going through a picky stage. One trick I found that worked for us is I tell her I would like you to taste XYZ but if you don't like it then you can spit it in the sink. This is kiddo gold! I guess spitting is the best thing in all the world!!! She will usally taste something just to spit it out but at least she is trying new things and she occasionaly desides she likes it. Your FDD might be to young her this but it may be worth a try.

KUP on how it goes!


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May 1st, 2009, 02:45 PM
kwestern's Avatar Coolest Mom Ever
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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If she's been tagged as 'failure to thrive' then I think you just gotta do what you gotta do to get some more food in her right now. Then battle about where to eat and when to eat when she's a little older. DIPS - my kids will eat anything if they can dip it. Also try making the food fun... I cut sandwiches into hearts, arrange food into smiley faces and such. Sometimes that works. Does she have a favorite food? It might come down to eating that for breakfast, lunch, dinner until she can put on some weight. Does she prefer to drink her calories? Both my kids have had that problem - my 18mo right now prefers to drink her calories instead of eat so I make sure she only has whole milk and I substitute soy milk and such occasionally to get so added nutrients in her.

Definitely don't force feed her and don't let her know it stresses you out b/c that can make it worse. Try to make it fun for her so she'll be more apt to eat. HUGS mama! You are doing a great job and she is lucky to have you!

Thank you Kara for my siggy!
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May 1st, 2009, 02:55 PM
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Wow! Great advice you guys!!! I would also suggest giving her her own spaces in a snack drawer or fridge to eat from whenever she wants. The ice cube tray is a really neat idea!
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May 1st, 2009, 03:09 PM
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I was a child that had the diagnoses of "Failure to Thrive"...My dad gave me goats milk due to the high calorie content but i was still Tiny for the first 4 years or so. At a year I was only 14 pounds...my son was 25 at 9 months...lol I was a full-term baby but still only weighed 4 pounds 12 OZ. I was just small...there isn't anything wrong with that unless she isn't meeting other milestones.

honestly if it was my child I wouldn't worry...but I have talked to my father at length about this and I know what to expect and such. Before my son was born my dad sat me down and we had a talk about it. The big thing he told me is that dr's don't know very much most of the time they are guessing... My dad was told that I would die...that there was no way I could live past 6 months. Well...27 years later here I am!!!

Being a past foster mom I can understand your concern there but if her caseworker doesn't seem bothered I wouldn't be worried.
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May 1st, 2009, 03:19 PM
mamatomaica's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I think shes probably trying to control something in her life, because she has little control elsewhere. it might help to give her options elsewhere in her life, and ask where she would like to eat (outside, on the floor etc) make it fun like others said... serve it up on a dolls teaset!!
you've got some good ideas up there. be creative, don't force feed her, she'll eat when shes good and ready

Beautiful Siggy by Claire!
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May 1st, 2009, 05:58 PM
Zoostergirl's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 7,840
Thank you all for your thoughtful and useful replies. I know in my heart that this is really my problem and not hers. She was a preemie and is doing okay on the growth chart for Very Low Birthweight Girls. It's just her regular pediatrician with the regular growth chart who stresses me out.

And tonight, after eating very little all day, she ate a good portion of grilled chicken and very buttery rice with about 10 M&Ms for dessert.

We do have a booster for her at the table, but I know that unless I drop the stress around eating she will act the same way there as in her highchair. So, we moved her into the booster tonight at dinner and I'm promising myself that she won't have bad associations with eating there. I will relax and offer high calorie nutritious foods and not show frustration when she doesn't eat them.

I know some of my frustration is about the waste of food. I end up throwing out so much food even though I only offer her little bits at a time. We were very poor growing up and wasting food was not something we did. My grandfather grew up even worse off, and at his house I remember being told quite distinctly that if I didn't do a good job finishing my apple he would shove the core down my throat. He likely wouldn't have, but I never took the chance.

And she has been with us since she was 4 months and was never technically abused/neglected, although being in the hospital for a long time without loving family there has got to be very sad for a little baby.

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May 1st, 2009, 10:50 PM
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May 2nd, 2009, 04:53 AM
broxi3781's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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Location: belfast, northern ireland
Posts: 1,563
First my hats off to you. I've thought of foster care, but it would have to be teenagers, but it's brilliant you can give this child the family life she so badly needs. You must really have your hands full too, so many little ones.
As to eating, i agree with the other posters try to let it go as you can not force her to eat anough, but hopefully with less pressure she will begin eating more. Just leave out tons of snacks. As far as dogs, maybe you should get one? I hate throwing out food too, but our dog devours anything that isnt dogfood
Billy goes through spells where he eats very little too, but his weight is healthy, if a bit under average for his height. I just always left something on his table until he was old enough to go into the kitchen and help himself. we absolutely couldnt get him to eat fruit when he was younger though. The health visitor said to always give him some and just leave it. Well I got fed up throwing away food and stopped giving him any. I noticed his interest when he saw I had something he didnt, so just made a big point of how much i was enjoying it. Within a few days he wanted some, but I ran and got him sweets instead and settled down to enjoy my lovely fruit. Of course he didnt want the sweets, he wanted the now forbidden fruit. I deliberately left it just in reach and left the room for a minute and came back to him gobbling it up - he has eaten fruit since, LOL.
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May 4th, 2009, 08:39 AM
~*Kixs*~'s Avatar Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: May 2007
Location: North Texas
Posts: 12,914
If she is a premiee shouldn't she be messuard on her adjusted age not her actual age??? Just saying.

It is very hard not to pass on OUR food issues to our children. We do not have a scale in our house b/c I remember how nutty my mom was with it when i was little. But that is not the point. If food waste is a hang up for you just give her little bits and pieces, as much as she will eat, and keep the rest in a small container to offer for a snack later on. We were taught not to waste food as a kids too...this is what my mom did and this what I do too.

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